Cruises will be back on from next month as Royal Caribbean launches its own vaccine passport scheme – but they’ll be swapping the Bahamas for Belfast with UK destinations only.
The company, which usually sails to the far-flung tropics, will instead travel to locations including Liverpool, Belfast and the Orkney Islands, with everyone on board over 18 required to have had two jabs.
Royal Caribbean – which is offering free cruises to key workers – will require either a doctor’s letter or documents confirming the vaccine appointments, with the second dose needing to be received at least two weeks before the date of departure.
The latest figures show 90% of over-50s have now been vaccinated, a promising sign for the cruise industry which overwhelmingly attracts older adults. The average age for a UK and Ireland cruise passenger is 57.
The company, which usually sails to far-flung destinations in the tropics, (like the British Virgin Islands – pictured) will instead travel to destinations including Liverpool, Belfast and the Orkney Islands
Managing director Ben Bouldin said Royal Caribbean would be willing to take part in a government vaccine passport scheme if one emerged – despite a cross-party backlash today which has seen 41 MPs vowing to vote against the idea.
Mr Bouldin said: ‘The numbers of vaccinations the UK is managing to achieve is really strong.
‘We recognise that not everyone will have been vaccinated through this summer but we know a good number of our guests would have been and we’re asking to prove they’ve had their two vaccines and we’ll be asking two weeks since their second vaccine.
‘And we’re asking them to prove their vaccine appointment with them or a letter from their doctor. And if the Government continues to finds a successful green card, that would be helpful but we’ll find a solution either way.’
On the change of destinations, he said: ‘Sailing around the UK is not usually what Royal Caribbean does, but the UK government has laid out the opportunity for domestic cruising to resume from May 17, and while we are not starting quite from then we are looking to show how it can be done very safely.’
He added that cruises from the UK to international destinations could resume from September or October, with the company hoping business would be back to usual by 2022.
Royal Caribbean – which is offering free cruises to key workers – will require either a doctor’s letter or documents confirming the vaccine appointments. Pictured is Belfast City Hall
The Orkney Islands, which is one of the destinations that will be visited by Royal Caribbean cruises
He also said they would be doing tours to Israel, which has introduced a green card vaccine certification scheme.
Yesterday, Royal Caribbean announced it was offering key workers free cruises around the UK in a nod of appreciation for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some 999 rooms will be gifted to workers in the emergency services, NHS, social care sector and armed forces.
Those who want to apply for the voyages must register on the cruise line’s website to enter a ballot. The firm’s Anthem of the Seas ship will begin sailing from Southampton from July 7.
Since July 9, 2020, all holidaymakers have been advised to avoid taking a cruise due to the pandemic.
But maritime minister Robert Courts told MPs recently that domestic cruises could be permitted from May 17.
Plans for government-sponsored vaccine passports have sparked intense controversy and inspired a backlash from MPs across all parties. Pictured is Mr Johnson yesterday
How vaccination passports could work
What would I get?
Officials are working on an update of the NHS app which would allow people to scan their vaccine status at the door of a venue. A paper version is being developed for those who do not use a smartphone.
Is it popular?
One poll found 68 per cent would support the idea for theatres or indoor concerts, with just 18 per cent opposed. But businesses have raised concerns, with the trade body UK Hospitality branding it ‘unworkable’.
Do MPs back it?
Opposition is building, with a cross-party alliance of 72 MPs last night pledging to oppose the ‘divisive and discriminatory’ plan. Rebels include 40 Tories – enough to wipe out the Government’s majority. Labour has yet to say how it will vote and ministers believe they could force it through without primary legislation.
What about pubs?
Boris Johnson suggested last week that it could be left to individual landlords to decide whether to require vaccine certificates.
Possibly in the workplace. But the CBI warns it could prove a ‘legal minefield’ and damage relations.
When will it happen?
Possibly as soon as next month in theatres and stadiums. However a full rollout will not take place until all adults have been jabbed.
Plans for government-sponsored vaccine passports have sparked intense controversy and inspired a backlash from MPs across all parties.
The Prime Minister is on a collision course with 72 backbenchers who have signed a pledge railing against the ‘divisive and discriminatory’ certification scheme.
Forty-one Tory MPs – enough to wipe out the Government’s majority – have joined forces with 22 Labour MPs and 10 Lib Dems to oppose the measures on grounds it infringes civil liberties.
It means any future Commons vote likely hinges on Sir Keir Starmer, who this week said vaccine passports went against the ‘British instinct’ but refused to commit to whipping his MPs either way.
Downing Street insists no plans for domestic vaccine passports have been confirmed, but ministers have been seen to be pitch-rolling for their use in recent weeks and the scheme is reportedly a ‘done deal’.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said such documents could be a way of getting people back to ‘doing the things they love’.
But this morning Mr Johnson also stressed that vaccinated people are not allowed to meet indoors because ‘the vaccines are not giving 100 per cent protection and that’s why we just need to be cautious’.
Some companies are already pressing ahead, and the managing director of Royal Caribbean today said the cruise liner would be requiring guests to show documentation they have had their two doses.
Pub landlords blasted vaccine passports as another ‘burden’ that could scupper their reopening, which many struggling venues warn is already looking unlikely.
Last night it emerged trials for vaccine passports could begin as soon as next month, with theatres, and stadiums are being lined up to pilot the controversial scheme under plans discussed by ministers.